Tea Leaves and Sympathy (Written for Radio)

Tea Leaves and Sympathy (Written for Radio)

(10-30m)   by Tobiascordingley
 

Sitcoms/Stage Plays   (6838 Views 0 Comments)

MUSIC: ANNOUNCER FOR TITLE AND CREDITS OVER MUSIC.
SCENE 1

SUPERMARKET ENTRANCE - DAY

SOUND: SHOPPERS, TROLLEY NOISE, STREET NOISE,FOOTSTEPS.

PETER McGREGOR: Could you come back into the store with me please Madam?

MRS TOWNSEND: Oh ... erm ... yes, of course...

SCENE 2

A SMALL SECURITY OFFICE AT THE REAR OF THE STORE.

SOUND: SUPERMARKET NOISE FADES AS THE OFFICE DOOR SHUTS.

PETER McGREGOR: Do take a seat, please.

SOUND: THE SOUND OF A CHAIR BEING PULLED OUT FROM A TABLE AND A BAG BEING PUT ONTO THE TABLE.

PETER McGREGOR: I just need to complete some forms. May I have your name?

MRS TOWNSEND: Certainly. It's Liz. Elizabeth Townsend.

PETER McGREGOR: Thank you.

MRS TOWNSEND: Sixty one on Tuesday.

PETER McGREGOR: Well I don't really need ...

SOUND: ITEMS BEING TAKEN OUT OF A BAG AND PUT ONTO THE TABLE

MRS TOWNSEND: And I live at 11 Hickers Brook Close, North Penwick, Papa Whisky three, nine Juliet Bravo. Oh, I do miss that show. I did used to like it.

PETER McGREGOR: Thank you, Mrs Townsend.

SOUND: FLIPPING PAGES AND USES A PEN TO WRITE SOME DETAILS

MRS TOWNSEND: I've never done anything like this before. Never.

PETER McGREGOR: Thank you for allowing me to remove the items. You may take your bag back now.

MRS TOWNSEND: You see ... I haven't been right lately. I'm forgetting things.

SOUND: FLIPPING OF PAGES ON A CLIPBOARD AND WRITING

PETER McGREGOR: Well Mrs Townsend, you forgot a few things today. Seven things in actual fact. Didn't you? Seven things YOU forgot to pay for. Now let's see what else we have here ...

SOUND: THE NOISE OF A SMALL BOX OF TOOTHPASTE BEING DRAGGED ALONG THE DESK AND PICKED UP.

... One Advanced System, Whitening Care, Total Gum Control, Plaque Defence, one hundred mils, fifty percent extra free ... (pause) quite a mouthful.

SOUND: THE BOX BEING GENTLY THROWN BACK ONTO THE TABLE

MRS TOWNSEND: I don't even have my own teeth!

SOUND: BAG OF FROZEN PEAS BEING PICKED UP

PETER McGREGOR: Next; Item number three - one pack of frozen mixed peas and carrots.

MRS TOWNSEND: My husband has all his own teeth. (Pause) Did. Does.

PETER McGREGOR: Oh - you know you can get these with sweetcorn in them as well now?

MRS TOWNSEND: I don't know why I buy the big packs of them. I live on my own you see?

PETER McGREGOR: Well ?buy' is the ?word du jour', isn't it? You haven't bought them have you, Mrs Townsend?

SOUND: BAG OF PEAS THROWN ONTO THE TABLE. ANOTHER PLASTIC PACKAGED ITEM (BACON) PICKED UP.

MRS TOWNSEND: Well ... well, no.

PETER McGREGOR: One packet of premium bacon, back bacon, thick cut, eight slices, smoked.

SOUND: ITEM BEING SLIGHTLY THROWN ONTO THE TABLE. PAPERS BEING FLIPPED WITH SOME WRITING DOWN.

MRS TOWNSEND: I actually meant to get sausages.

PETER McGREGOR: One pack of ?Too Good to Eat' luxury recipe, thick, Herb Proven?al, sausages. Twelve pack.

MRS TOWNSEND: Oh. I was going to pay for them. I forgot to pick up a basket you see, at the entrance, and I was going to take them out of my bag at the checkout but, Mrs Sanderson stopped me on the way down aisle six and we had a bit of a natter. She was telling me about her potato man going on holiday...

PETER McGREGOR: One Plug-in Air Freshener, Floral Breeze, with one extra free refill.

SOUND: OPENS THE BOX TO SMELL THE REFILL INSIDE

Yeah, the Spring Bouquet smells much nicer. Have you tried that one?

SOUND: CLOSES THE BOX AND PLACES IT ON THE TABLE.

MRS TOWNSEND: I normally just bung some pot-pourri in a dish.

PETER McGREGOR: Item number seven, one box, one large box, double layer, luxury Belgian chocolates.

MRS TOWNSEND: I'm diabetic!

SOUND: MORE PAPERS ON THE CLIP BOARD ARE BEING FLIPPED AND SOME WRITING DONE. PETER PUTS THE CLIPBOARD DOWN ONTO THE TABLE.

PETER McGREGOR: The police shouldn't be very long Mrs Townsend. It's just a formality. I think just a caution, don't you? Have you done this before?

(SILENCE)

PETER McGREGOR: Mrs Townsend?

MRS TOWNSEND: No. Never.

PETER McGREGOR: Are you married Mrs Townsend?

MRS TOWNSEND: Yes. (Pause). Sorry, no ... divorced. (Pause). For five years now. He still pops ?round, for special occasions you know, but ... well, there was someone else you see?

PETER McGREGOR: Ah...

MRS TOWNSEND: Well there was always someone else. It should never have been me. There were three in this relationship, so it was a bit overcrowded. I am a little like Diana in that respect.

PETER McGREGOR: How long had this been going on?

MRS TOWNSEND: Well a fair while I'd say. I found out that their song was ?Puppet on a String? by Sandy Shaw. I thought he'd been a gone a long while running to the shop when Eurovision was on!

PETER McGREGOR: That was in the sixties?

MRS TOWNSEND: 1967.

PETER McGREGOR: And you still love him?

MRS TOWNSEND: Despite everything? Yes. Yes I still love him.

PETER McGREGOR: What do you do Mrs Townsend?

MRS TOWNSEND: I've been a dinner lady at the school around the corner for a few years. But I used to teach.

PETER McGREGOR: Oh really? What did you teach?

MRS TOWNSEND: The piano.

PETER McGREGOR: Ah ... well, that explains it doesn't it?

MRS TOWNSEND: Explains what?

PETER McGREGOR: Why you are so good and light with your fingers.

MRS TOWNSEND: No. Please believe me. I'm no thief Mr... whatever your name is?

PETER McGREGOR: McGregor. Peter McGregor.

MRS TOWNSEND: It's funny, you know more about me than I do

of you.

PETER McGREGOR: Well that's how these circumstances usually work out isn't it? You must think me a horrid man, Mrs Townsend?

MRS TOWNSEND: No, not at all. You're just doing your job.

Though I do wonder why you choose this profession, why anyone chooses to do this?

PETER McGREGOR: Well ...... I ......

MRS TOWNSEND: But you're very good, making yourself invisible.

PETER McGREGOR: That is the aim of the game. Though you can't really become invisible, you can't be seen that's for sure.

MRS TOWNSEND: Cat and mouse?

PETER McGREGOR: Well, that's a chase Mrs Townsend. It becomes more predatory then that. The chase comes later, outside. The hunting and circling is inside. The shop is the jungle you see? Then you step out into the open exposed space of outside, and then go for the kill. (Pause) Oh, I'm sorry. That was rather unprofessional of me.

MRS TOWNSEND: Well no, you put it very vividly. A jungle you say? And you need to know every inch of it?

PETER McGREGOR: Yes. The blind spots, the places to conceal yourself, the perfect disguise, how to walk and behave like a shopper, blending in. Look at me, giving away all my trade secrets!

MRS TOWNSEND: Oh Mr McGregor, it won't go any further, and well, I don't plan to ever do this again!

PETER McGREGOR: I know you won't.

MRS TOWNSEND: You're sure of that, are you?

PETER McGREGOR: Of course.

MRS TOWNSEND: I'm feeling very bad.

PETER McGREGOR: It's natural.

MRS TOWNSEND: Well not that so much. Yes of course, I'm ashamed - embarrassed, but I feel I'm wasting your time above anything else.

PETER McGREGOR: Why do you feel you are wasting my time?

MRS TOWNSEND: You should be out there catching the real thieves. Or do you prefer to call them ?shop fitters'?

PETER McGREGOR: Shop-LIFT-ers Mrs Townsend. Shoplifters.

MRS TOWNSEND: Aye, shoplifters, that's the one I meant.

PETER McGREGOR: Yes. Or ?suspects'. There's bags of goods unpaid for going out this store - any store in fact - every day.

MRS TOWNSEND: And it's your job to stop it?

PETER McGREGOR: Well thats a bit much to ask. I can only minimise it. We have quotas to fulfil you see? As long as I am seen to be catching a good day's worth and preventing it where I can. It's prevention rather than cure. (Pause) So... you are on your own now?

MRS TOWNSEND: Yes. On my own. Meals for one - as they say.

PETER McGREGOR: Mrs Townsend, I'm sorry.

MRS TOWNSEND: Oh don't be. It's simple really. I thought I was the one, we were the two. I the one for him and he the one for me. But, it wasn't to be. I believe there is only one person we are destined to be with. A perfect pairing? Do you believe in that Mr McGregor?

PETER McGREGOR: Peter please. (Pause) Well I guess I do.

MRS TOWNSEND: Look at Elizabeth Taylor. She got through seven didn't she, before she went full circle, realising it was David Burton she wanted all along?

PETER McGREGOR: Richard.

MRS TOWNSEND: That's the one. My old next door neighbour used to know his sister. Lived in Wales.

PETER McGREGOR: Yes, that's right. He was Welsh.

MRS TOWNSEND: Well ... I just think there is only one, and it's a chance of meetings and collision.

PETER McGREGOR: And time.

MRS TOWNSEND: Perhaps.

PETER McGREGOR: And places. Where did you meet him?

MRS TOWNSEND: Ah well you see, I used to give him piano lessons. I taught him the piano.

PETER McGREGOR: I see.

MRS TOWNSEND: My mother was a pianist and so was my Grandmother. They did the old music halls around here. My Grandmother played for the silent movies at the Alhambra. Then the talkies came in and did her out of a job. So she opened up a school. So from a baby I've been hearing the piano. I was playing my first tunes when I was four.

PETER McGREGOR: When did you meet ... er ... sorry, I'm assuming ... Mr Townsend?

MRS TOWNSEND: Yes. I kept his name. Both in our late teens we were. And so for most of our lives, I've been thinking we were a duet.

PETER McGREGOR: Do you have any children Mrs Townsend?

MRS TOWNSEND: We had the one. Just the one. Paul.

(Pause)

He got knocked off his bike on the way home from school.

PETER McGREGOR: I'm so very sorry.

MRS TOWNSEND: He was pedalling home fast. Well faster than usual, because he'd just won a house cup. He wanted to show it to Bill and me, and then put it up on his book shelf. (Pause) A cement mixer didn't see him and pushed him into a Ford Cortina.

SOUND: THE SOUND OF MRS TOWNSEND GOING THROUGH HER HANDBAG FOR A TISSUE.

Never a tissue when you need one.

PETER McGREGOR: Oh I have some.

SOUND: SOUND OF A TISSUE DRAWN FROM A BOX.

There you go...

MRS TOWNSEND: Oh thank you. You're very kind.

PETER McGREGOR: I'm going to have a cup of tea. Can I make one for you too?

MRS TOWNSEND: That would be very nice, thank you.

SOUND: A KETTLE IS SWITCHED ON. WE HEAR IT HEAT UP.

TWO CUPS ARE TAKEN OUT OF A CUPBOARD. TEASPOONS GO INTO THE CUPS.

PETER McGREGOR: You can imagine, I get a lot of tears in this room. You get to learn genuine tears from the, well, shall we call them the ?crocodile variety'?

MRS TOWNSEND: You think you cry it all out over the years, but you don't. There's always some drops that can be squeezed out from time to time.

PETER McGREGOR: Milk and Sugar?

MRS TOWNSEND: Milky and one sugar. Thank you. (Pause)

I remember at the hospital, they pushed a cup of tea into my hand. Well it was a mug actually. A Paddington Bear mug. They'd just told us that Paul had, you know, gone. I didn't quite get it. I don't even think I heard it the first time. (Pause)

All I could think about was how sweet the tea was.

PETER McGREGOR: Yes. Lots of sugar for the shock. When you hear something like that you have to think of something else at the same time, something you know is real, believable and makes sense. I remember when I went through it with my Mother.

MRS TOWNSEND: Oh? I'm very sorry. She must have been young? I mean, you, you look so young.

PETER McGREGOR: She was fifty-seven. And I was twenty-nine. Just four weeks from my thirtieth. I was taken into a room. And, well, you know the rest. I was staring towards a book case in the corner, when I was told. I actually think I was in the nurse's staffroom. There was an Argos catalogue in between ?Great Expectations' and ?The Railway Children'. You see? There was my focal point, right there.

SOUND: KETTLE COMES TO THE BOIL. PETER POURS THE WATER INTO THE MUGS. STIRRING WITH A TEASPOON.

PETER McGREGOR: There you go.

MRS TOWNSEND: Oh thank you. Thank you very much.

PETER McGREGOR: Yeah, so you focus on a distraction, something to keep sane I suppose. It triggers your brain into coping better. No matter how trivial the real thing is; a crack in a tile, a stain on a wall, too much sugar in the tea, a Paddington Bear mug, an Argos catalogue! That is the thing that makes sense, not the bad news you have just been hit with.

MRS TOWNSEND: I couldn't take it in. I remember staring at the feet of the doctor, the nurse, and the sister. The nurse had a ladder in her tights. I meant to tell her, in case she hadn't realised, but then we were pushed into another room. They'd prepared him and made him ready for us to ... you know ... see him.

SOUND: PETER'S RADIO COMES ON WITH A MUFFLED MESSAGE.

PETER McGREGOR: Excuse me a moment. (Pause)

(Into a radio) Papa Mike Two. Receiving. Over.

SOUND: WE HEAR SOME NOISE FROM THE RADIO. THE SPEECH IS MUFFLED BUT WE CAN MAKE OUT SOMETHING ALONG THE LINES OF ?THE POLICE ARE HERE. I'M SENDING THEM UP TO YOU.?

PETER McGREGOR: OK. Received. Over.

MRS TOWNSEND: Is that the Police?

PETER McGREGOR: Yes. It is. They've just arrived.

MRS TOWNSEND: Well I best gulp my tea down quick and get off. Is the back door open? (Laughs slightly).

PETER McGREGOR: Take your time. There's no hurry. (Pause) Regardless of what happens and what the Police say, you'll be leaving the store discreetly. I'll see to that.

MRS TOWNSEND: Thank you. You've been so kind. Thank you for listening too. I haven't talked about Paul in months. Probably as much as a couple of years. He's in me of course. He's right here. But if I don't talk about him, that vague shadow of a boy just keeps fading.

PETER McGREGOR: Perhaps you need to talk to Mr Townsend. Tell him how you feel. Talk about Paul between you both. Arrange a time to meet and tell him how you feel. It might open doors or reopen others. You never know?

MRS TOWNSEND: Well, I do keep trying.

SOUND: KNOCK ON THE OFFICE DOOR.

PETER WALKS TOWARDS THE DOOR.

THE DOOR OPENS.

POLICEMAN 1: Good Morning!

POLICEMAN 2: Hello.

PETER McGREGOR: Hello Officers. All the paperwork is done. It's minor and a first offence. So we don't want to prosecute, but I imagine you will want to issue a caution.

POLICEMAN 2: Alright love? Shall we go down to the station for a little chat?

SOUND: MRS TOWNSEND GATHERS HER THINGS.

PUTS HER CUP ONTO THE TABLE.

ZIPS HER HANDBAG UP.

POLICEMAN 1: Come on. Let's get you out of here.

MRS TOWNSEND: Thank you for everything, Peter. You know...

PETER McGREGOR: Don't mention it. I'm pleased I could help. (Pause) Oh, and Mrs Townsend?

MRS TOWNSEND: Yes?

PETER McGREGOR: You asked me how I got into this line of work...

MRS TOWNSEND: Oh yes?

PETER McGREGOR: When I was ten years old, I was caught stealing a bar of chocolate. I took a bar of chocolate and I was caught outside and dragged back in. He brought me into a room rather like this. I've been sat where you've been sat Mrs Townsend. Although I wasn't waiting for the police, I was waiting for my parents. It frightened the life out of me. But the guy who caught me changed me that day. And ... I've been a good boy ever since!

MRS TOWNSEND: What a lovely story. (Pause) Goodbye Peter!

POLICEMAN 1: Come on Liz. Let's get you out of here.

SOUND: THE DOOR OPENS AND FOOTSTEPS EXIT.

PETER McGREGOR: Liz? Oh ... you know her? I wasn't aware ... I mean ... I thought that she hadn't ...

POLICEMAN 1: She's my ex-wife Mr McGregor. I'm Constable Bill Townsend.

PETER McGREGOR: Ex-wife?

POLICEMAN 1: That's right. She keeps doing this. I really need to talk to her this time. A more personal talk I think, just herself and me. Well Goodbye Mr McGregor!

SOUND: DOOR CLOSES.

PETER McGREGOR: (Pause) Bye. (Pause) Well, well, well! (Laughs to himself).

MUSIC: BRIEF MUSIC TO THE NEXT SCENE.

SCENE 3

SUPERMARKET AISLES - DAY.

SOUND: SHOPPERS, FAINT SUPERMARKET MUSIC, TROLLEY SOUNDS, TILL SOUNDS, FAINT TANNOY ANNOUNCEMENT.

PETER McGREGOR: (LOW - Talking softly to himself) Right Pete, another hour and a half to lunchtime. You can make it. Would be a much better idea to get out of the food aisles though. You're just tormenting yourself. Ah, Peanut Butter. There's something I haven't had in a long time.

SOUND: A JAR IS LIFTED OFF THE SHELF

(LOW - Reading the label on the jar) Crunchy Peanut Butter. 17% fat per one teaspoon. May contain nuts?

SOUND: PLACES JAR BACK ONTO SHELF.

I should hope it does. Health and safety gone potty!

(Pause)

Hello you. What are you up to?

(Pause)

Oh, a Vicar. Well, well, well. You are up to something and it's non-ecclesiastical!(Pause) I don't believe it. He's just put that honey inside his coat! Right here we go...

SCENE 4

THE SECURITY OFFICE

SOUND: FOOTSTEPS ENTERING THE OFFICE.

THE DOOR CLOSES.

PETER McGREGOR: Take a seat.

SOUND: A CHAIR IS PULLD OUT.

The mints are paid for. Anything else?

REV MALCOLM GREEN: No. Just the honey.

PETER McGREGOR: I see. Just the honey?

REV MALCOLM GREEN: That's right.

PETER McGREGOR: It's a bit warm in here. Please, take off your coat if you prefer.

REV MALCOLM GREEN: I'm alright, thank you.

PETER McGREGOR: Well, my name is Mr McGregor, Peter McGregor. May I have your name please?

REV MALCOLM GREEN: Yes. I suppose so. It's Malcolm Green.

SOUND: PAPER IS BEING FLIPPED AND WRITING ON FORMS

PETER McGREGOR: Reverend is that?

REV MALCOLM GREEN: Yes. It's not fancy dress. Reverend Green. And no jokes about Reverend Green, in the supermarket, with a jar of honey please.

PETER McGREGOR: (Laughs a little)

REV MALCOLM GREEN: Are you surprised?

PETER McGREGOR: That you're a Vicar? No! I've met lots of Vicars before.

REV MALCOLM GREEN: None that you've caught stealing I take it?

PETER McGREGOR: A couple springs to mind. Perhaps more Nuns.

REV MALCOLM GREEN: Nuns?

PETER McGREGOR: Yeah. Nuns. With habits in more ways than one!

REV MALCOLM GREEN: Well I suppose there isn't any fixed description of a shoplifter is there?

PETER McGREGOR: A stereotype?

REV MALCOLM GREEN: I detest that word!

PETER McGREGOR: Stereotype?

REV MALCOLM GREEN: Yes. (Pause) Your Vicar stereotypically - white hair, spectacles, in robes, rock of the community, believes in God.

PETER McGREGOR: You don't believe in God Reverend?

REV MALCOLM GREEN: No. Not anymore. (Pause)

I used to of course. I used to believe in the Tooth Fairy. God and faith are exactly the same things. If you lose your faith, you lose God, and vice-versa. If your faith dwindles, God dwindles away from you too. He can only exist in you. If you don't believe in him, he can't exist for you. Others perhaps, but not for you.

PETER McGREGOR: So, like Tinkerbell? Or, what was it in that film? Erm ...'It's a Wonderful Life'... every time a bell rings...

REV MALCOLM GREEN: ...an angel gets his wings! Yes. Well ... the only bells ringing now are in my belfry. That is, when business is good!

PETER McGREGOR: Business?

REV MALCOLM GREEN: Weddings, Christenings, Funerals.

PETER McGREGOR: Ah, I see. Hatch, Match and Despatch. When people really need God?

REV MALCOLM GREEN: When people just need a Vicar and a church with a free diary to do their service. Can you believe they encourage people to ?shop around' now for their service and to get quotes? I tell them; ?you're not fitting a new kitchen!'

SOUNDS: THE REVEREND PICKS UP THE JAR OF HONEY.

You see the church is like this supermarket. Honey, is what they need, you know - not a regular thing on your shopping list, but every now'n and again sort of thing? (Pause) Does anyone come into this supermarket if they don't need anything?

PETER McGREGOR: Reverend Green, why did you take this honey today?

REV MALCOLM GREEN: Have you seen the price of honey recently?

PETER McGREGOR: Ah yes. The bees dying out?

REV MALCOLM GREEN: Well unless Winnie the Pooh is running a hostile takeover bid, yes.

PETER McGREGOR: How do you preach and conduct services when you don't believe in God?

REV MALCOLM GREEN: Do you believe in stealing?

PETER McGREGOR: I believe it happens. I believe it's wrong. I'm against it, which is why I try and prevent it happening.

REV MALCOLM GREEN: I believe that other people believe in God. That I'm afraid, is enough to carry out my job. After all, it is a job.

PETER McGREGOR: Not a calling?

REV MALCOLM GREEN: I was called. Many years ago. Some people know they want to be a doctor, a teacher, or a ... I don't know ... a vet? I just knew I had to do the will of God and help others to do so too.

PETER McGREGOR: Really? Reverend, I don't mean to pry, I'm here today to stop you walking out with goods not paid for. But, I am interested ... why you turned your back on God?

REV MALCOLM GREEN: As opposed to him, turning his back on me?

PETER McGREGOR: Is that the case?

REV MALCOLM GREEN: It feels that way, yes. I've had a full series of tragedy. I help others to feel better, move them on to their next stage in life, add quality to their lives. All I've had is deductions.

PETER McGREGOR: But as you say, that was your calling. You've done so much good. You've accepted a duty. You must be rewarded?

REV MALCOLM GREEN: Like the Queen? Do you think when she gets up in the morning and she looks in the mirror - do you think she says to herself; ?Oh I can't wait to shake another poor sod's hand today??

PETER McGREGOR: Probably.

REV MALCOLM GREEN: Well it's a calling, that turns into a job. You care, but it becomes like acting I suppose. Years of doing it ... you can turn it on like turning on a tap.

PETER McGREGOR: Remind me not to book you for my wedding. (Pause) Unless you do half price deals?

REV MALCOLM GREEN: Mr McGregor, I don't wish to sound rude but, could we do all that's necessary so I can be on my way?

PETER McGREGOR: Yes. Yes, of course.

REV MALCOLM GREEN: Complete the forms, telephone the police, and whatever else must be done. (Pause) I'm sorry, you have a job to do and I mustn't tell you how to do it.

PETER McGREGOR: No it's fine, really.

REV MALCOLM GREEN: You see, it's rather awkward.

PETER McGREGOR: Of course. I can imagine how you must feel.

REV MALCOLM GREEN: No it's not so much that...

PETER McGREGOR: What is it then?

REV MALCOLM GREEN: Well, it's just that I have a funeral at two O'clock.

PETER McGREGOR: Ah!

REV MALCOLM GREEN: And I don't have back up. It's only that if I am not there, my organist - Mrs Tinkler, will play ?Abide With Me' until kingdom come! (Pause) That's if she remembers it's a funeral! Otherwise, the coffin will be rolling down the aisle to the Wedding March. She's very deaf, and very oblivious to what is going on behind her.

PETER McGREGOR: Well I haven't radio'd the police yet. I wanted to talk first.

REV MALCOLM GREEN: Oh? You want to confess? (laughs slightly).

PETER McGREGOR: No. But, I think you should.

REV MALCOLM GREEN: Me? Very much so. But through who?

PETER McGREGOR: Well ... me.

REV MALCOLM GREEN: You?

PETER McGREGOR: Yes.

REV MALCOLM GREEN: And what qualifies you to take this?

PETER McGREGOR: Well ... I believe in God.

REV MALCOLM GREEN: Yes. Yes you do. I can see that.

PETER McGREGOR: So ... maybe you need to get something off your chest?

REV MALCOLM GREEN: I couldn't possibly, it's quite absurd, the whole notion. I mean how ...

PETER McGREGOR: Of course it's absurd. But, what is more absurd, Reverend? That you are AWOL from a funeral in a couple of hours because you have been caught shoplifting? Or, that you open up to a fellow believer, for ten minutes?

REV MALCOLM GREEN: Ok. Right. I see your very valid and poignant point. But you should start with a prayer. And it would help in the role play if you sat at the side of me.

PETER McGREGOR: Fine. But it's not role play! Role play never works. Role play realism is defeated by the actual pretence in doing it, that it's not real - it's acting.

SOUNDS: PETER PICKS UP A CHAIR, PLACES IT AND SITS DOWN.

REV MALCOLM GREEN: And you think you know how this is done?

PETER McGREGOR: How hard can it be?

REV MALCOLM GREEN: I see. Would you like me to pop out there and catch a few shoplifters for you while you prepare?

PETER McGREGOR: (Laughs) (Clears his throat) Right. Here goes...

(Pause)

So, what can I do for you today Malcolm?

REV MALCOLM GREEN: (Clears his throat). Well ... I ... I need to repent ... Fa ... Father (Struggles to say the word).

PETER McGREGOR: Well now. Shall we commence with a prayer?

REV MALCOLM GREEN: Yes, let's.

PETER McGREGOR: Could you open with a prayer Malcolm?

REV MALCOLM GREEN: Well yes, alright. (Pause) (Clears his throat)

Our Father; you alone, our most high. We come before you to ask forgiveness and humble ourselves before you. To repent what we do against your will, the will you set out through our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ... and to bring our knowing of what is right and what is wrong before you so that we stand judged before you and open to be led by you. We pour our hearts out to you, heavy with the burden of sin and may you listen and help us overcome the badness we have done but that we want to do right and be shown our errors. In you we trust Lord, and in you we offer our repentance. Amen.

PETER McGREGOR: Amen. (Pause) Tell me why you are here.

REV MALCOLM GREEN: I've done much wrong Father.

PETER McGREGOR: Tell me what troubles you.

REV MALCOLM GREEN: I have sinned.

PETER McGREGOR: What sins are you carrying?

REV MALCOLM GREEN: I've lost faith in him. I've stopped believing in him.

PETER McGREGOR: Him?

REV MALCOLM GREEN: God.

PETER McGREGOR: God is here. He never left you.

REV MALCOLM GREEN: I lost faith in him and it's made me challenge everything. Challenge life, challenge others, challenge what I'm doing...

PETER McGREGOR: What made you stop believing?

REV MALCOLM GREEN: I've had family taken away from me. My purpose in life has been taken away from me. It's affecting my behaviour.

PETERMcGREGOR: In what ways?

REV MALCOLM GREEN: I'm lost. I'm not attentive to my parishioners. I'm not sleeping. I'm anxious all the time. I've been caught shoplifting. I ... I don't need to steal. Why am I doing it? Attention?

PETER McGREGOR: Probably. Maybe you want to meet others that don't believe in God. Perhaps you feel you spend so much time with believers and you need an exchange with non-believers?

REV MALCOLM GREEN: Perhaps.

PETER McGREGOR: What did you steal today?

REV MALCOLM GREEN: Some honey. (Pause) Some smoked salmon.

SOUNDS: THE REVEREND PULLS OUT A WRAPPED PACKET OF FISH FROM HIS CLOAK AND PUTS IT ONTO THE TABLE.

PETER McGREGOR: Is this the first time you have taken things?

REV MALCOLM GREEN: Yes. I've not so much taken a penny from the collection plate.

PETER McGREGOR: I see.

SOUNDS: THE REVEREND PULLS OUT ANOTHER ITEM FROM HIS COAT POCKET (A SMALL CONTAINER OF MILK) AND PUTS IT ONTO THE TABLE.

A pint of milk. Anything else Malcolm?

REV MALCOLM GREEN: Just one other thing...

SOUNDS: THE REVEREND PULLS OUT A SMALL BAGUETTE BATON AND PLACES IT ONTO THE TABLE.

A small baguette.

PETER McGREGOR: And that's everything?

REV MALCOLM GREEN: That is all. That is all I have ever taken in my entire life.

PETER McGREGOR: Anything else?

REV MALCOLM GREEN: No, I have taken just those four things.

PETER McGREGOR: Not the items today. I mean, anything else you want to bring to confession? Or, anything else you wish to tell God? He's listening.

REV MALCOLM GREEN: I think so. It's the guilt.

PETER McGREGOR: You feel guilty?

REV MALCOLM GREEN: Very much so. But he knows already.

PETER McGREGOR: Tell him again why you feel guilty.

REV MALCOLM GREEN: About ten years ago, I pressured my parents to move out of the Vicarage, and into a small apartment I had bought for them. There was so many stairs in the Vicarage, and I found a little flat that was all ground level. I paid for all the alterations and improvements to the flat. Just to make living and mobility easier for them.

(Pause)

Keep looking forward. You're not supposed to be looking at me. Remember, we are in a box!

PETER McGREGOR: Yes of course. Sorry.

REV MALCOLM GREEN: I probably found the cheapest cowboy out there to do the gasworks. My parents were in the flat for a few weeks. I popped around one Sunday after service because I'd noticed they had't turned up to church. After getting no answer at the door, I let myself in with a spare key. I walked in, and there they both were, dead, in front of the television. In front of Vanessa Feltz. Gassed to death by their own son.

PETER McGREGOR: I'm sorry.

REV MALCOLM GREEN: Not as sorry as I am. I've carried this blame for nearly ten years. (Pause) So ... what does God say to that? What must I do? Because I don't think three hail Mary's will quite cut it. Do you?

PETER McGREGOR: Well ... (Pause)... he says stop blaming yourself.

REV MALCOLM GREEN: It's not that easy though, is it?

PETER McGREGOR: He's known about this all the time. You haven't been hiding anything from him. He's left a church roof over your head.

REV MALCOLM GREEN: No. But, I feel he has left me. It's true that God can be a shelter. But, what is it they say? ... ?You can take shelter under a tree from the rain, but nobody is immune from big drips from time to time'.

PETER McGREGOR: Do they say that?

REV MALCOLM GREEN: I'm not sure. It sounds like a line from one of my sermons actually.

PETER McGREGOR: Well it sounds about right. But what I'm trying to say is that, if he left you, why does he still keep you in service? Why is he all

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10-30m Sitcoms/Stage Plays - Tea Leaves and Sympathy (Written for Radio)